It’s been a long day and you just want to get home. You have errands to run, kids to pick up and dinner sitting in grocery bags on the back seat. While on the way the tiredness of the week starts to hit, you feel yourself getting drowsier and drowsier, but do you feel the danger attached to this? Or maybe you woke up extra early to head to an out of town appointment, you stayed up late the night before and just as you leave town you start to almost nod off. Did you know you are a threat to everyone else on the road? Driving drowsy isn’t just unsafe for you; it’s unsafe for everyone else on the road, waiting at the bus stop or even sitting in their home, that you could potentially drive through.

Drowsy driving may sound innocent, but it’s not. Many people have heard the old wives tale that driving tired is worse than driving drunk, and more realistically both are terribly dangerous to you and all those around you. Drowsy driving is any time that you are not totally alert. Drowsy driving slows reaction times and ability to have full awareness of what is going on around you. It could mean you are unable to stop at a stop sign or light, that you might nod off and miss an animal crossing the road, or that you could totally fall asleep letting your car potentially crash into others or go off the road into a telephone pole, lake or even into a home. Drowsy driving is dangerous driving.

If you are noticing that you are struggling to be alert at your driving times you may need to adjust your sleep schedule, or even take a short nap before hitting the road. Shift workers and those who travel constantly for their employment are often working odd hours and not getting enough sleep. Keep in mind, caffeine and energy drinks should not be used as an insurance plan for safely driving alert. An untreated sleep disorder may also be the culprit for your drowsiness. Many people have sleep apnea and leave it untreated, or won’t adhere to their treatment plan, making them a danger on the road. There are other sleep disorders that can cause sudden drowsiness as well. If you are concerned about these, talk to your healthcare provider. North Country Hospital has its very own Sleep Medicine Department and Sleep Lab that can help diagnose and treat those underlying conditions. Ignoring your symptoms won’t make them go away or get better, but they could put you and others in danger.

Unfortunately “driving drowsy,” is left off many car accident reports, but that doesn’t make the “accidents,” go away. Car accidents aren’t just about those involved in the vehicle. It takes the time and talents of first responders and many other professionals that now become responsible for cleaning up the mess. While a first responder is headed to your accident caused by drowsy driving, a father could be waiting for an ambulance from a heart attack or an elderly lady who’s fallen could also be waiting for help. Drowsy driving accidents are careless, needless and draining. Approximately 83.6 million sleep-deprived Americans drive a car every day, and some 5,000 people lost their lives because of drowsy-driving crashes last year, according to a new report from the Governors Highway Safety Organization.

What’s worse? Most drowsy drivers know they are getting behind the wheel tired and choosing to make the selfish and careless decision that could leave someone (including themselves) hurt or even dead. If you are tired you should be resting, not driving. If you can’t stop yawning, your eyes feel heavy, or you feel like you are struggling to keep your head up, give your keys up! Just missing another car or getting home without remembering how you got there isn’t a success. Think twice before putting your drowsy self behind the wheel – it could save a life. Drowsy driving is dangerous driving.